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GOP Spending Against Blankenship Getting Noticed

WHEELING — A Republican-based political action group with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has spent $1.3 million on advertising against West Virginia GOP U.S. Senate candidate Don Blankenship, and Blankenship feels the effort might just profit him on Election Day.

“We’ll see what effect it has come Tuesday,” said Greg Thomas, spokesman for Blankenship’s campaign. “We feel it has benefited the campaign. It has highlighted that the swamp is against Mr. Blankenship. Mitch McConnell will do what can to see the wall isn’t built. He wants to keep bad trades deals with China in place, and to keep funding planned parenthood with federal dollars.

“Mr. Blankenship has expressed his opposition to McConnell on these issues, and that’s why they are attacking him,” he said. “But we feel very confident going into Election Day, being the nominee and beating (Democrat) Sen. Joe Manchin in the fall.”

The Wall Street Journal and the political news source Politico are among the national news organizations that have reported on the efforts by the Mountain Families PAC to outspend Blankenship and curtail his bid to win Republican nomination to U.S. Senate in West Virginia.

Blankenship previously served as CEO of Massey Energy. His filings with the Federal Elections Commission show him as lending his campaign $3,515,000, and spending most of it on advertising.

A listing with the FEC lists the Mountain Families PAC as being based in Arlington, Virginia, and being launched this spring by Benjamin Ottenhoff — a former chief financial officer with the Republican National Committee. It has yet to file a financial report with the FEC detailing its finances.

A most recent poll by Fox News, though, indicates spending by the group may be working. Data shows Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., as in the lead in the race with 25 percent of the vote; State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey with 21 percent; and Blankenship in third with 16 percent. Three other candidates in the six-man race — Bo Copley, Tom Willis and Jack Newbrough — each captured less than 10 percent of the vote, and 24 percent of the voters were still undecided.

The ads on television and online mention Blankenship’s federal conviction in 2015 for lying about safety procedures at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010 that resulted in the deaths of 29 miners. His charges were reduced to a misdemeanor count of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards. He served a one-year sentence at FCI Taft in California.

Another addresses a lawsuit filed against Massey Coal by some Mingo County residents who alleged their drinking water was contaminated by Massey under Blankenship’s leadership.

Neither Jenkins nor Morrisey has attacked Blankenship in their advertising. They’ve used their time instead mostly assail each other.

The tag disclaimer contained within each of the Mountain Families PAC ads says the organization “is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”

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